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The Translocation of Useful Trees in African Prehistory

  • Roger Blench
Chapter

Abstract

Agriculture in Africa is usually conceptualised as beginning in a distinct era with specific indicators of early plant domestication. However, as research on African vegetation evolves, it is increasingly clear that the identification, use and subsequent translocation of trees and other woody plants constituted a major process in the transformation of the African landscapes far earlier than agriculture proper. Indeed some authors now date this to as early as 10,000 years ago. The paper argues that tree translocation can occur through a number of inter-related processes, which are exemplified in the text. It focuses on two species in particular, the baobab and the wild date-palm, Phoenix reclinata, which have anthropic distributions. The paper discusses methodology of identifying such tree species, and suggests that African vegetation has been manipulated in ways comparable to early domestication in the Amazon and the Pacific. It also notes that these processes continue with the spread of fruit and timber species in the modern era.

Keywords

Adansonia digitata Trees Translocation Wild date-palm Woody vegetation 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This paper was first presented at the 8th International Workshop for African Archaeobotany, Modena, Italy, 23–26 June 2015. However, its genesis was following an Ethnoscience Summer School in Libreville, Gabon, in 2013 hosted by Patrick Mougiama-Dauda. I would like to thank Charles Doumenge, CIRAD, Montpellier and Charles Clement, INPA, Manaus, for discussions underlying the general idea. Thanks to the editors and two referees for suggestions and corrections.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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